Groundhog, Shmoundhog

Rob-Portrait351In recent weeks, there have been various reports of oversized rodents poking their beady-eyed heads out of their respective holes in the ground with the goal of predicting the end of winter. While I am generally in favor of traditions, this one seems a bit silly to me. Especially when there is a much more accurate means of determining the depth of winter and the likely onset of spring. I am, of course, speaking of the woodshop winter metric system (WWMS for short). Note to reader: this should not be confused with “The Metric” system that for some reason strikes irrational fear into every fraction-fond American woodworker.

Here’s how it works: Enter any active woodworking shop after the holiday season is over, and simple observation will provide all the information that a person will need to know about the progress of our journey around the sun. Are there pieces of wood being run across the jointer and through the planer? If so, it is still very early and spring is nowhere near. Do you see subassemblies sprouting from every horizontal surface? That is a sure sign that we are in the depths of winter and it is not fit outside for man or beast. But perhaps you saunter into a shop and the only sounds you hear are sanding and scraping – no meadow mouse on steroids can offer a more accurate indication that our earth is tilting back on its axis and relief is on the way. If you smell lacquer thinner or polyurethane in the air, break out the bermudas and your black socks and sandals, because it is going to get warm outside.

So, next year, I am going to invite the Today Show to my workshop to provide a better look-see at the approach of spring. But seeing as that is only a year away, I’ve got to get into that shop and start cleaning!

– Rob Johnstone, Woodworker’s Journal

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